Tipperary 2-19 Galway 2-18
Redemption on many levels for Tipperary.
Redemption for their below-par showing at this very juncture and against this very opposition 12 months ago.
Redemption for the several, and well-documented at that, one and two-point defeats in both league and championship that have been used as a stick with which to tarnish this team over the past number of years.
Indeed, one has to go all the way back to June of 2012 to find the last time Tipperary came out on the right side of a championship fixture by the minimum — the Premier men scored a 1-22 to 0-24 win over Cork in the Munster semi-final on that occasion.
Yesterday would not be another tale of woe in their long catalogue of near-misses.
The players simply couldn’t allow it. And even though Galway spent much of the afternoon holding down the inside lane, there was a feeling among the 54,227 crowd that Tipperary were biding their time before making that decisive kick for home.
At the top of the final bend, they checked their stride, moved onto the outside lane and went.
Cathal Barrett, one of the many Tipperary players to come strong at the finish following a punishing first-half at the hand of his direct opponent – Conor Cooney took him for 1-1 early on, launched a probing delivery into a Galway full-back line that, up until this point, had coped admirably with each grenade thrown in their direction.
John Hanbury stumbled out over the sliotar creating a two-on-one inside.
John McGrath picked up the loose ball, offloaded to substitute John O’Dwyer and Bubbles, despite the acute angle facing him, hopped the sliotar off the ground to beat Colm Callanan.
With the clock reading 60 minutes, Tipperary had moved 1-19 to 2-15 in front. Aside from a brief spell prior to Joseph Cooney’s early second-half goal, this was the first time since the 14th minute that the Munster champions led.
Mind you, this lead was also similarly brief. Conor Cooney flung over his second from play in the ensuing action to level this semi-final contest.
On 63 minutes, Tipperary kicked again. Bubbles and Seamus Callanan combined to put John McGrath in the clear and the Loughmore-Castleiney forward made no mistake from close range. 2-19 to 2-16 ahead; now theirs to lose.
The two goals hinted at a tiring Galway defence which had limited Tipperary’s starting six forwards to just four points from play for the first hour of this enthralling clash.
Dan McCormack, Patrick Maher and Niall O’Meara were each held scoreless as defenders clad in maroon hunted like a marauding pack of hungry wolves.
Seamus Callanan too, the provider of 3-9 and 3-8 in his last two champions outings against Galway, was rendered scoreless from play by Dáithi Burke. Manager Michéal Donoghue labelled him a “revelation” during his post-match debrief. Hard to disagree.
Conor Cooney, who assumed free-taking duties in the absence of the injured Joe Canning, pointed with five minutes remaining, but, crucially, missed the target with a dead-ball chance on the Cusack Stand side from just inside his own half thereafter.
The ensuing minutes were dotted with a litany of ill-judged Tipperary shots from out the field, bringing their wide count to 13 by the finish. 2015 semi-final winner Shane Maloney was again sprung off the bench and his 71st minute point reduced the deficit to the solitary.
Tipperary pressed from the subsequent puck-out meaning the westerners weren’t allowed move possession into the opposition half of the field, never mind engineer an equalising chance.
Michael Breen, arguably the winners’ most industrious performer in the first-half, labelled this an important win.
“It has been said that we lie down in tight games, but not this year. We’ve developed that mental toughness, we built on it throughout the league and the championship and I think we are just coming right.”
Perhaps, but it took them a fair while to come right here.
The Premier defence was breached as early as the sixth minute as Conor Cooney, set-up by Johnny Coen, drilled a low show into the left pocket of Darren Gleeson’s goal.
The Galway management opted against a sweeper and questions marks over their orthodox formation were raised when Tipperary hit seven of the game’s next eight scores to move 0-9 to 1-3 clear, including five on the bounce between the 10th and 14th minute. Galway’s sole riposte during this Premier burst – a Conor Cooney point – could so easily have been a Tipperary goal as Noel McGrath’s strike cannoned off Colm Callanan’s crossbar before the Tribesmen swept down the field.
Four placed ball efforts from Canning and a splendid Joseph Cooney over-the-shoulder strike formed part of the six unanswered minors which returned the westerns in front on the half-hour mark. Seamus Callanan (free) ended their 17-minute scoring drought and although it was they who trailed at the break, 1-10 to 0-11, Galway had more reason to fret as Adrian Tuohy (elbow) and Joe Canning (hamstring) both hobbled down the tunnel. Neither would reappear.
Three further dead ball efforts from Callanan and Breen’s third suggested a turning tide. Then, Brendan Maher’s attempted handpass to Seamus Kennedy was intercepted by Joseph Cooney who proceeded to gallop some 30 metres before firing a low shot past Gleeson – 2-12 to 0-15 the scoreline read in their favour.
But in Canning’s absence, the attack simply didn’t carry the same threat or, indeed, purpose as had been the case in the first-half and consequently, they failed to push on.
Jason Flynn, Conor and Joseph Cooney each found themselves positioned on the edge of the square at various stages of the second-half, but aside from a Flynn catch-and-turn point, the Tipperary full-back line were not to be breached.
At the other end, Callanan (free), Noel McGrath and Ronan Maher tied matters for the eighth time. There was still a fair bit of work to do, but Michael Ryan’s troops never once shied away from the challenge – typified by Brendan Maher’s rousing contributions late on. The introduction of John O’Dwyer, lest we forget, was a help too.
So, an unfamiliar outcome where Tipperary and tight games are concerned to set up an all too familiar September pairing.
Scorers for Tipperary:
S Callanan (0-9, 0-8 frees, 0-1 ’65); J McGrath (1-1); M Breen, N McGrath (0-3 each); J O’Dwyer (1-0); R Maher, B Maher, Pádraic Maher (0-1 each).
Scorers for Galway:
C Cooney (1-6, 0-4 frees); J Cooney (1-1); J Canning (0-5, 0-3 frees, 0-1 ’65); C Whelan, J Flynn (0-2 each); David Burke, S Maloney (0-1 each).
D Gleeson; C Barrett, J Barry, M Cahill; S Kennedy, R Maher, Padraic Maher; B Maher, M Breen; D McCormack, Patrick Maher, N McGrath; J McGrath, S Callanan, N O’Meara.
J O’Dwyer for N O’Meara (45); J Forde for Noel McGrath (56); S Curran for Breen (67); T Hamill for Kennedy (71)
C Callanan; A Harte, Daithí Burke, J Hanbury; A Tuohy, P Mannion, G McInerney; J Coen, David Burke; C Mannion, J Cooney, J Canning; J Flynn, C Whelan, C Cooney.
A Smith for Tuohy (HT, inj); C Donnellan for Canning (HT, inj); S Maloney for Whelan, N Burke for C Mannion (both 65); D Collins for Harte (67).
B Kelly (Westmeath).
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